The problem of intelligence failure:
: the case of the Yom Kippur war (1973)

  • Stanislav Nikolov Nokov

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


From the Pearl Harbor intelligence debacle of 1941 to the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction intelligence fiasco of 2002, intelligence failures have been a widely documented and reoccurring phenomenon. Indeed, from a historical perspective, intelligence failures appear to be inevitable and unavoidable. They are indivisible part of the history of intelligence, and they still seem to haunt the presence. In concurrence with the mainstream academic opinion on the subject, by utilizing qualitative research method, concretely, relying on the Orthodox approach, and by examining various primary and secondary sources, this project argues that the reason why intelligence failures are inevitable are the multifarious, endemic, interrelated factors, barriers or pathologies, which being closely connected to the basic role of intelligence and the nature of information, pose negative effects on the whole intelligence cycle, hinder both the clarity and accuracy of the intelligence analytical process, and erode the warning-response dynamic. It is important to be noted that because these obstacles are indeed numerous, it would be the aim of this project to examine the nature and function of the fundamental, most important, and most damaging factors and barriers in respect to the intelligence, warning-response and decision-making processes. Specifically, it is the thesis of this paper to prove that the unavoidability of intelligence failures is due to the inherent pathologies and limitations of the human cognition, the endemic analytical problem of predictions from epistemological perspective, the mercurial time and space variables, the innate ambiguity of information and its excess nowadays, the danger of the politicization of the intelligence cycle and the sheer impracticability of the solutions, which are assumed to eliminate the aforementioned problems. The project will then move on to implement this theoretical framework in order to provide a consistent explanatory format for the Yom Kippur war intelligence failure of 1973. It appears plausible to assert that the thesis of the project is corroborated by the Yom Kippur war intelligence fiasco, as the failure was not provoked by insufficient information, highly successful Egyptian or Syrian deception, or Israeli intelligence officers and commanders being incompetent or inexperienced. Per contra, the roots of the Israeli Intelligence debacle are strikingly similar to the ones delineated and discussed by the theoretical framework of this project.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorR Gerald Hughes (Supervisor)

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